By Alan Baldwin
MONACO (Reuters) – Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has criticised Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, for naming two of his employees who raised questions about the legality of Ferrari’s energy recovery system.
He added, however, that Mercedes had no problems with the FIA deciding that their Italian rivals were in the clear.
FIA race director Charlie Whiting, speaking to British reporters at the Monaco Grand Prix, had referred to Mercedes’ engine expert Lorenzo Sassi and technical director James Allison.
Both men were employed by Ferrari before joining the reigning champions.
Asked whether he felt Mercedes had been “slightly thrown under the bus” by having team members identified, Wolff replied firmly: “Yes”.
“One of my roles is to protect my people and if certain individuals are named in a wrong context, that is disturbing,” he said.
Whiting had said on Saturday that “unsubstantiated speculation” about Ferrari had gone through the paddock “like wildfire”.
“I don’t think it’s any secret that a little piece of information came from a former Ferrari engine man, who’s now working for Mercedes,” he added, confirming that he was referring to Sassi.
The race director added that any information would have dated from before the engineer was put on a period of extended ‘gardening leave’ by his former team.
He said it was common for such “rumours, stories” to emerge when people changed teams: “They go there and say ‘oh, my old team is doing this’. And what they actually mean is ‘they were thinking of doing this’.”
Whiting said he first became aware of the Ferrari issue when Allison brought it to his attention before the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in April.
In response, Wolff felt Whiting had ‘cherry-picked’ some of the details given.
“Various teams question the FIA every single day,” he said. “I think it’s just important to not put somebody out there and say ‘this person has questioned an illegality topic’.
“If you say that a team has done that, that’s perfectly fine. Picking out individuals is not, I think, the right thing to do.”
He said also the relationship between Mercedes and Ferrari off the track, with the two seen as close allies in discussions about the sport’s future direction, would not be affected.
“Nothing has changed in that respect. It’s like playing rugby. We can fight hard on track and try to gain an advantage … but you can have a beer with each other afterwards.
“We want Formula One to be successful and that is what unites us.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; editing by Andrew Roche)